The sun beats down, burning hot on their skin. The moves they make are perfection. They slide around each other, intent on making the killing blow first. Their eyes are demonic red, burning scarlet. They barely seem to touch the ground. For now, they move slowly, languid in waiting.

Then everything happens at once. It's a flurry of blows, too fast to see, almost too fast to be real. They look evenly matched.

Still, it's Itachi that hits the ground, throat bruised. It's Shisui who scrambles to help him up. Sasuke watches from the porch, munching watermelon and waiting for the sparring match to end. They're going out to catch fireflies on the river as soon as it gets dark. Shisui and Itachi are going to teach him how to walk on water.

Shisui watches his cousin straighten, and then says something he's been thinking but hasn't said before. "You're different."

Itachi looks at him, and those red eyes are hard. They peer into Shisui with an intensity that a child should not possess, but Itachi is not a child like other children. He has been broken, and then remade into something else.

Itachi then smiles, as he is so prone to do now days-almost enough to make Shisui forget the other habits Itachi now has. "Everything is." Itachi suddenly holds a kunai to Shisui's gut. Shisui isn't alarmed. Itachi will never hurt him again.

"What are we training so hard for?" Shisui asks his cousin as they walk for the porch.

"Revenge," Itachi says simply, and his voice is old and dark. His face is shadowed, and Shisui gets a chill. Uchiha Madara, Shisui knows, will die as soon as Itachi get his strength and control back. Shisui knows something else as well. He'll guard Itachi's back when that fight comes. He's never letting his cousin go into the lion's den alone again.

"I'm going to eat all the watermelon without you!" Sasuke calls, his voice light as the butterflies that flit around the garden. Itachi looks at Shisui, and he laughs. It's a child's laugh, and Itachi has never been more of a dichotomy than he is now. He promises death with the face of an embittered old man on moment and then laughs like a child the next.

Something about Itachi has changed, but, as Shisui races to the porch, he cannot see change as a bad thing.

A/N: Yes, the epilogue is in present tense. Shhh, it's artistic license! I'm going to go back and do minor editting on earlier chapters now.

So you know, you guys just finished a 166 page story of over 100,00 words! THANK YOU FOR ALL THE REVIEWS! You guys have been awesome! (p.s., check out the poll on my profile if you've got a minute.)

See you next time. ^.~